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Informal Channels for Conflict Resolution in Ibadan, Nigeria

Isaac Olawale Albert
Tinu Awe
Georges Hérault
et al.

3. Conflict Resolution Models of Voluntary Associations

Texte intégral

1. Introduction

1The combined influence of traditional culture and the high cost of legal proceedings in the formal judicial setting have made the informal settlement of conflict popular among the poor in Ibadan. The continued importance of this mode of conflict resolution is enhanced by the Yoruba love of and talent for organizing professional and social associations, and their intense religiosity, which accords special significance to churches, mosques and traditional religious institutions. Inevitably, both religious institutions and professional associations have become critical for a for peacemaking initiatives as well as for conciliation, arbitration and settlement of disputes in the high density neighbourhoods of Ibadan.

2The conflict resolution procedure takes different forms, depending on the kind of conflict, the parties to the conflict and the channel favoured for resolution. Conflicts resolved through the mediation of religious institutions tend to follow a regular pattern. Those forms of resolution associated with interest groups such as associations and professional bodies differ because of the varying conventions, constitutions and organizational formats of the different groupings, their historical antecedents and spatial locations.

2. Causes and Nature of Conflict in the Neighbourhoods

3Although the two types of neighbourhoods identified in this study are different in origin, character and preoccupation, they nonetheless experience conflicts of a similar nature. Among the many causes of conflict in these neighbourhoods are family problems, mainly economic and extra marital; debt; tenancy; business deals; theft, sometimes robbery; land; inheritance; overcrowding and shared facilities and leadership struggles; especially in the professional associations and religious bodies.

  • 1 A cross section of people interviewed (mainly religious leaders and elders) linked frequent family (...)

4Family problems such as wife battering and divorce are a common feature of daily life in many homes in these crowded neighbourhoods. The root cause of this, according to our sources1 is the current economic hardship being experienced generally in the country.

5Second in order of importance is the issue of unsettled debt which is widespread in the two neighbourhoods. Most of our informants, especially the elders, religious leaders and leaders of the professional associations, agreed that many of the conflicts that they settle are associated with debts, especially among friends and neighbours.

6Leadership struggles in professional bodies also lead to conflict. The deepest conflicts experienced by professional associations are the ones related to the control of the association’s resources and leadership instruments. As the members of the executive, especially the chairman and the treasurer, often wield enormous power as a result of the resources they control, every eligible association member aspires to those offices. The incumbents manouevre to perpetuate themselves in office, in spite of constitutional provisions for limited terms. The ensuing conflicts often result in violent confrontations among the supporters of the interested parties.

7In spite of their protestations of faith and humility, religious institutions experience various conflicts. The struggle for the office of imam or pastor may become a serious subject of litigation in the formal courts. While the majority of such cases are settled out of court, aggrieved persons may sever themselves from the mainstream church or mosque to form a new congregation.

8Apart from these coramon causes of conflict there are certain conflicts which are peculiar to one or other of the neighbourhoods. Inheritance and property rights among children and relatives of deceased people constitute a significant source of conflict in the traditional neighbourhood. Where property is not satisfactorily shared among the entitled parties, the resulting bickering can linger for years, even generations. As a result, careful attention is given to the sharing of the property of the deceased.

  • 2 Reverend (Dr.) Oladoja of the First Baptist Church, Idi-Ikan, Ibadan picked gambling cases as one (...)

9Gambling is another major source of conflict in traditional neighbourhoods especially in business areas such as Beere and Idi-Ikan.2 Disputes over gambling can result in bloody confrontations as those who lose their property in the process usually feel reluctant to pay up when they are required to.

10In the new ‘poor’ neighbourhoods, tenancy disputes constitute a major source of conflict. In the wake of growing economic hardship, tenants who are struggling to survive on an increasingly meagre income often ignore their monthly rent to settle more pressing problems such as feeding and schooling requirements for children. This arouses the ire of the landlord who needs his rent to settle similar obligations. Evictions are common, leading to brawls and, in some cases, street fights, and arrests.

11To the extent that the neighbourhoods experience conflicts that are peculiar to their origin and character, the channel and mode of resolution are chosen to reflect these peculiarities.

3. Channels and Mode of Resolution

12There are various channels for conflict resolution open to the poor in Ibadan. The choice depends on the parties to the conflict, the type of conflict and the specific neighbourhood. The different channels for resolution include religious institutions, professional and neighbourhood fora, the council of elders, the police and, in rare cases, the courts of law.

3.1 Religious institutions: From dispute to the court of love

13The most frequently used channel in the poor neighbourhoods of Ibadan is the religious forum. The office of the imam or pastor assumes critical significance. These leaders are perceived as men of God with integrity and high moral calibre. The majority of the poor, themselves intensely religious, are willing to take their disputes, domestic or otherwise to these parties. The success of imams and pastors can be perceived in three ways: first, in an age of rabid materialism, disputants look to this arbitration as an informal method of submitting their problems to the supreme arbiter, the Almighty God, Who, in the final analysis, determines the affairs of men. This is not a question of religious sentiment. It is, in fact, a response to perceived inequities of the organized judicial system with its emphasis on status and monetary wherewithal. Second, pastors, deacons and imams are regarded as God’s representatives and as such are trusted and respected. They do not hold themselves above the poor socially. They do not wear strange robes and wigs like the lawyers and judges who also speak in English using legal jargon. The poor and uneducated can follow the proceedings in these religious mediations and understand their judicial propriety. The method of settling disputes is familiar: it involves counselling, citing the words of God either from the Bible or the Quran, and quoting examples from the holy books that suit the problems being solved. Again, religious leaders, especially the older ones, combine experience of life with appeal to religious sentiment to make peace among the parties to the conflict. The following examples illustrate the role of the religious institutions in conflict resolution.

3.1.1 Case Studies

14a. A young man, about 30 years old, in Beere area of Ibadan had taken his brother to the formal court over the manner in which their late father’s property had been shared while he was still a baby. In that instance, those who presided over the distribution allocated nothing to either the young man or his mother. The case had an explosive potential which could have led to physical fighting and/or loss of life, especially as it involved landed property. The young man was bent on pursuing the case to its logical conclusion so he took it to the court of law. However, since his deceased father was a strong member of the mosque in the neighbourhood and very well known in that community, the issue was brought to the attention of the imam, who immediately sent for the aggrieved young man. He heeded the call and laid his complaint before the imam. The young man vowed, however, that he would not withdraw the case until justice was done to him and his mother. The imam listened to him and sympathized with his cause. He informed the young man that he, the imam, was present at the time that the property was being shared and that the panel that presided at that meeting did not forgot either him, even though he was still a toddler, nor his mother. The threats of assassination and abduction made by the older members of the family, if they were not satisfied with the allocation at the scene of the distribution prevented them from giving tangible property to him. Since there was little to share, the safety of the boy and his mother was considered paramount and no physical property was allocated to them.

  • 3 The acting imam of the University of Ibadan mosque, Alhaji D.A Adekilekun-Tijani, related this sto (...)

15However, the panel had prayed for Allah’s guidance and blessings on the mother and child and that, according to the imam, was better than all the physical property shared on that day. He then used the young man’s relative success as a lawyer and banker to illustrate the acceptance of the distribution panel’s prayer for the boy by Allah. What did the young man want now? To challenge God? or rebuke Him? What did he now want that God had not already provided several times over or whom amongst the half brothers that inherited their father’s property was as comfortable as he was at that time? Did he now want to expose himself to danger from those that denied him and his mother their share of his father’s property? Why fight when God had already given him victory? The imam then chided the young man, ‘Ti isu eni bajina aafowo boje ni’ (when one is rich, he avoids extravagance to ward off envy). The young man was trying to attract undue attention and envy. The man wept, thanked the imam, went and withdrew the suit from the court.3

16b. In another instance at Idi-Ikan area of Ibadan, a man had lost his commuter bus, his only means of livelihood, to another man through gambling. When it was time to hand over the bus to the winner, he refused and this resulted in a scuffle between the two. The case had already reached the police station before it was brought to the attention of the pastor of the church which the loser of the gambling exercise attended. The reverend asked the police to leave the case to him to settle as both of them had agreed to his mediation, even though the winner was not a member of his church. Both parties stated their cases, but the winner added that he’had been on the losing side for a very long time and this was his own opportunity to recoup his losses. The reverend asked if the man (the winner) had lost any money through gambling that day and he said no. He (the reverend) then pleaded with the winner to let the loser have his bus since that was his only means of sustaining his family. Moreover the Holy Bible says we should love our neighbours as ourselves. Again, he said that God would reward him bountifully for making such a big sacrifice to save his fellow human being. The decision might be painful, but the reward from God would surely compensate for the gain that would have made his friend unhappy for a very long time. The man was asked to regard the return of the man’s bus to him as a deal with God; God does not double deal nor renege his promises.

  • 4 Oladoja, op. cit.

17The owner of the bus (i.e., the loser) was seriously reprimanded for gambling away his only means of livelihood. After pacifying the winner, the reverend then advised the two men to desist from gambling as it was against God’s teaching; instead they should endeavour to take better care of their families. He then prayed for the forgiveness of their sins and blessings from God. The two men thanked the reverend and promised never to gamble again. The winner of the gambling exercise allowed the loser to keep his bus and they both departed.4

  • 5 Interwiew with Alhaji Y.A. Zubair, State Missioner (Oyo State) and National Deputy Missioner Ansar (...)

18Although cases as exemplified by these anecdotes and in the categories identified earlier come regularly to religious leaders for arbitration or settlement, the most frequently treated cases are the domestic disputes of couples. According to all the religious leaders interviewed, these constitute almost 90 per cent of the cases treated daily. Settling disputes, ‘especially domestic problems, is a major preoccupation here, second only to the religious function we perform, and it is a daily affair too’,5 one religious leader remarked.

  • 6 ibid.

19In performing these duties, religious leaders rely not only on the holy books as a guide to counselling the couples but also on their experience. According to one of the religious leaders, ‘I make them realize from the onset that my ‘court’ is not that of law but that of love. I do not separate people but unite them. You have to leave here to be better friends, not sworn enemies. I do not deliver judgement but settle disputes. If you want victory and compensation you go to the court of law and become your friend’s eternal enemy’6 With this opening statement he sets the tone for listening to the problem.

20One of the commonest domestic problems is the issue of divorce among couples. In a particular instance, a man in Foko area of Ibadan got tired of his wife and went to the customary court at Mapo to sue for divorce without the woman’s knowledge. On receiving the paper for divorce, the woman rushed to the reverend of her church, which her husband also attended, for assistance. The reverend asked her what her offence was and she said none that she could remember. He then sent for the husband who on arrival alleged that it was public knowledge that his wife was engaging in extramarital affairs and he was tired of being the laughing stock in the neighbourhood, hence his decision.

  • 7 Interwiew with Reverend A. Adejuwon of the Holy Covenant Church, Foko. Ibadan.

21The reverend tried to confirm the story from the wife who could not give a satisfactory answer. The reverend then turned to the man and asked if he believed that the Bible is the Word of God. The man answered in the affirmative. He then asked him to forgive his wife as the Bible has enjoined us to always forgive those who trespass against us. Moreover, the Bible also recommends only one wife for every man ‘till death do them part’. He advised that it would be against biblical injunction for the man to do what he was planning to do. He also wondered how the man was sure that the new wife would not do the same. The reverend then prayed for them and specifically asked God to change the woman to be a better wife and the man to be a forgiving husband so that they could live peacefully as husband and wife. They both thanked the reverend and went home satisfied.7

  • 8 Adekilekun-Tijani, op. cit.

22In a similar case, a couple married for several years, suddenly began to have problems in their home when the husband decided to take his faith more seriously. The couple had been married under the English system in the registry, basically because of their different religions. The man was Muslim while the wife was Christian. Trouble started when the man started practising his faith religiously and decided that the wife either joined him or the marriage would be dissolved. The wife did not agree to either. While the man was arranging to take another wife, the woman threatened to go to court. This put a temporary halt to the man’s plan but he pointedly told the woman that ‘the court can only tell me not to marry another wife here, it cannot tell me how to lead my life’. He therefore stopped performing all his obligatory duties as husband in the house. The woman went and reported the situation to the imam at the man’s mosque. The imam praised the man for deciding to return to his religion and for wishing for no other than a Muslim wife. But he counselled him that Islam does not forbid marriage to a non-Muslim woman, especially a Christian; and that, instead of a good reward from Allah, the Almighty would punish him seriously if he went ahead and divorced the woman on the present excuse, for he would put the woman in great pain contrary to the teachings of the Holy Quran. The woman was told what her duties were to her Muslim husband and they both went home satisfied.8

3.2 Settlement procedure: Religious forum

  • 9 The procedures for hearing cases are as varied as there are religious institutions in Ibadan. The (...)

23The settlement of disputes by religious leaders is usually done by the head (leader) of the congregation, the imam or the reverend. This is because most of the cases are brought to him in confidence as the respected leader of the group. The pastor/imam listens to most of the cases alone, with occasional assistance from other senior members of the church or the mosque. The assistance of other senior members of the congregation could be in private or in the open, that is when the disputants are present, depending on the nature of the case. However, since most of the cases concern domestic problems, the imam or the pastor listens to and settles them alone, with private consultation from the senior members of the congregation. Where the case is not so private as in the issue of debts, gambling, land disputes, etc., it is the imam in collaboration with the ‘mission board’, or the caretaker committee, or the pastor and the committee of deacons, or the elders committee,9 or the peace committee as the case may be, that will sit to hear and settle the matter.

  • 10 A third, though not so common way of receiving reports on quarrelling parties within the congregat (...)

24There are no laid-down procedures for reporting cases to the church or the mosque. Over the years, however, two major methods have become noticeable, i.e., through one of the disputants or a third party.10 If a problem is brought to the attention of the reverend or the imam by a third party, he may invite the disputants separately (to avoid confrontation), in order to hear each side of the story before fixing a date for a joint meeting. On the other hand, if the case gets to the leader through one of the disputants, he will send for the other party, who should normally respond promptly. The nature of the case determines whether the leader presides over the matter alone or in concert with other officers of the church or mosque.

3.3 The appellate court

  • 11 Imam. op. cit.

25A resort to higher authorities for more satisfactory judgement is not very common among religious institutions, except in leadership conflicts. This is so, perhaps, because of the way cases are brought to religious leaders, the nature of the cases, the respect people have for the religious institutions the leaders represent and the integrity of the religious leaders themselves. Problems once settled hardly resurface again. In fact, none of the religious leaders interviewed could remember any of the disputants, in a case already settled by them, going to higher authorities, either in the hierarchy of the religious institution or in the formal judicial setting. It was only in one instance that a Muslim leader11 in Foko area mentioned the case of a land dispute involving members of his mosque which they tried to settle but in which one of the parties to the conflict still went ahead to take the case to a formal court. The man, according to the Muslim leader, is now regretting his action. Several years after he took the case to court, after all the parties to the conflict had been barred from using the land in question — his only means of survival — the court was still delaying judgement.

  • 12 This brings to mind the celebrated leadership tussle within the Celestial Church of Christ al the (...)
  • 13 This was what happened to the Ahmaddiya Movement in Islam in the late 1970s when a section of it b (...)

26However, in leadership struggles within churches or mosques, aggrieved parties could take their case to higher church or mosque authorities. This is very common among well established churches and mosques with multiple branches around the country.12 The appeal court, in this case, takes the form of intervention from the church or mosque headquarters who feel it necessary to save their name from public ridicule by inviting the parties for a settlement. This usually involves a national peace committee, or a national mission board sitting to make peace among the parties. However, there have been instances where even these national attempts at brokering peace have failed. In such cases the parties have resorted to the formal judicial courts or to breaking away from the main stream church or mosque to form a new denomination.13

3.4 Professional bodies: Peace as a work ethic

27Professional associations also partake in the regulation of conflict among the poor in Ibadan but on a more limited scale. The extent of their intervention in conflict is dependent on both membership strength and the kind of services they render. In this regard, there is little difference in the involvement of various associations in conflict resolution between such associations as the drivers’ associations that come under the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and have a lot of contact with the public and smaller ones like the Bricklayers Association with limited contact with the public, especially the poor. Virtually all of the professional bodies have, as top priority, the issue of regulating the conduct of members and applying sanctions to the erring ones. In addition, they fix prices for their services. In view of the size of the city of Ibadan, zoning (whereby the city is divided into zones for effective coverage and to achieve better earnings for association members) is also strictly enforced by these bodies. Some of these associations include the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), National Union of Barbers and Personal Service Workers; Grinders Association, Bricklayers Association; Association of Environmental Practitioners of Nigeria, Ibadan Foodstuff Sellers Association, and the Egbe Alalubosa (Onion Sellers Association).

3.4.1 Major Causes of Conflict

28In the various associations the major causes of conflict are leadership struggles, non adherence to agreed prices, cheating on the zoning system, and breaching the rules of the union. Conflict with the general public is usually caused by the unruly behaviour of association members to members of the public or by breach of agreement by association members or members of the public, and what are regarded as ‘unnecessary’ complaints by the customers.

29Leadership struggles are a major source of conflict common to virtually all the professional associations, especially those with an institutionalized system of picking their leaders through elections. Other associations like the Ibadan Foodstuff Sellers Association or the Onion Sellers Association that pick their leaders by consensus without any fixed tenure have fewer leadership problems. However, although leadership problems that sometimes result in bloody clashes between rival groups, severe injuries and sometimes death are a major source of conflict in the associations, yet the final settlement of such crises is often done informally (i.e., away from the law courts) within the parameters of operation of the various unions.

3.4.2 Case Studies

a. Leadership crises

30Recently there was a conflict in the Ojoo branch of the NURTW. The problem started when an aspiring candidate for the office of branch chairman accused the incumbent, whose term of four (4) years was nearing completion, of planning to succeed himself, since no plans had been made for fresh elections. The aspiring candidate thus challenged the incumbent at the expiry of his term and even went to the extent of forming a parallel cabinet to run the affairs of the association. The immediate consequences of the leadership struggle were constant bloody clashes between the supporters of the contending candidates. The conflict so escalated that the Oyo State Commissioner of Police was forced to post detachments of the mobile police force to Ojoo motor park, the scene of the clashes, for more than one month to maintain order.

  • 14 Interview with Mr. Tajudeen Ayinde, Vice Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW (...)

31In resolving the conflict, the chairman of the NURTW in Oyo State, together with members of the executive, appealed to the Oyo State Commissioner of Police to withdraw the policemen deployed to Ojoo motor park and allow the matter to be settled in accordance with the laws of the association. The Commissioner obliged them. The union leader, after listening to the parties to the conflict, appointed a caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of the branch, pending the time the situation in the branch would be conducive for the holding of fresh elections. This goes to confirm one union official’s statement that, ‘No matter the extent of damage, intra-union disputes are best resolved within the union’s framework. The police are aware of this and so usually leave us with our troubles’.14

  • 15 Interview with Mr. Kunle Adekola, secretary, Agbowo branch of the National Union of Barbers and Pe (...)

32Because the NURTW is well known to the police, its members sometimes invite the police when disputes arise. However, other associations which have limited contact with the police, generally prefer to solve their disputes without involving the police and the bureaucratic inconvenience which this generally entails. The Agbowo branch of the National Union of Barbers and Personal Service Workers recently had a leadership crisis that was only resolved through the timely intervention of the state headquarters. The crisis was essentially between the old breed barbers who constituted the leadership of the branch and the new breed who were in the majority. While the latter wanted a change in the price of hair cut to tally with what was obtainable in other branches, the old breed barbers, without expertise in modern hair cuts, preferred the existing flexible pricing system. The young barbers therefore challenged the leadership of the chairman, alleging that he had overspent his term of office and was merely retained in office because of his old age. The chairman resisted the challenge. However, the young barbers met secretly and agreed to seize the equipment of anyone charging below the current market price. This resulted in open confrontation that was only resolved when the national headquarters reconciled the parties and ordered fresh elections in the branch, which the new breed barbers won.15

b. Cheating/theft

33While leadership crises remain a major source of conflict within the professional associations, it is by no means the only type of conflict which arises. Indeed, as stated earlier, leadership is hardly a problem in associations such as the Ibadan Foodstuff Sellers Association and the Onion Sellers Association, where leaders are neither picked through elections nor have a fixed tenure.

34Leadership stability in those associations, which are made up mainly of women, is a function of the reliability of the highly informal process of selecting their leaders, especially the chairman. She/he is normally selected by a unanimous decision of members who must have been impressed, over the years, by the honesty, commitment to association goals and ability to deal dispassionately with issues displayed by him/her. In Bodija market, for instance, the chairman, who is unanimously selected, picks those to work with him in such a way as to reflect the six groupings that make up the association. According to Mrs. Titi Oladimeji, an executive member of the association, they have never had any leadership crisis since they formed the association eight years ago. Apart from such minor internal problems as a member disobeying association rules, their major problem has been with the public; in particular the truck drivers that usually bring their goods from the hinterland to Ibadan.

35Due to the constant need by association members for trucks to transport their goods, the association has standing agreements with certain individuals in the specific areas where their members buy their goods to serve as agents for hiring good and reliable trucks. It is the duty of the agent to ensure that the goods are properly loaded in the presence of the truck driver and the names of the owners and the quantity of the goods properly documented. The owners of the goods reserve the right to travel in the truck or find alternative means of transport. The drivers are usually informed of the exact destination of the goods well ahead of departure time. Problems often arise when goods get missing between the market in the hinterland and Ibadan. Such problems are sometimes difficult to handle, especially when the owners of the goods travel in the truck all the way to Ibadan. The drivers will usually claim, in such instances, that since the owners of the goods were in the truck from the market to Ibadan they should be aware if any of their goods were stolen in the course of the journey. If there is any shortage they claim that the mistake was from the point where the goods were counted.

36The owners of the goods, on the other hand, usually women, will insist on the quantity in the document, claiming that they paid for the goods and therefore they should know the quantity loaded into the vehicle. A member of the association explained that, ‘these drivers and their boys cannot always be trusted. Even when your eyes are wide open for twenty-four hours they can steal all the goods in the truck if they want to. We are only lucky that the association, through the peace committee, has been doing a lot to prevent any serious crisis between us and the drivers’.

37In one particular instance a group of women hired a truck to carry their goods from Minna, in the north, to their market in Ibadan and chose to ride in the truck carrying their goods. At a particular point during the journey (of about 700 km) the truck driver said the truck had developed engine trouble and would take some time to be repaired. Since it was at night and in a forest area, the women were obliged to stay in the vehicle. After about an hour, the driver announced that he had fixed the vehicle and they could continue their journey. The rest of the journey was peaceful until they arrived at Ibadan and discovered that some bags of rice and beans were missing. The driver insisted that he brought the exact quantity of goods loaded. The women disagreed and insisted on having the driver pay them for the missing goods. The driver threatened to go to the police station to report the case as he was being accused of theft unjustly. The peace committee of the foodstuff sellers association waded into the conflict. It pleaded with the driver to be patient and enjoined its members to support the committee in its investigation. On the surface the case was a simple one since the women had the document attesting to their claims. But the committee was not out to give judgement, instead it wanted to settle the dispute in such a way that the existing relationship between the driver and the agent in the hinterland was not strained. It therefore listened to the complaint of both parties keenly and found common ground at the point where the vehicle had broken down. But some pertinent questions could not be answered. Where exactly did the vehicle break down? Nobody could tell. Not even the driver and his boys. Around where? Or what was the name of the nearest village to the spot? At this point the committee members became suspicious of the driver who was a veteran on that route. But since the women could not remember the location, nothing could be done. However, at the last minute one of the women remembered a landmark she had noticed shortly before the vehicle purportedly broke down. She took members of the committee, along with the driver, to the point and they combed the roadside from the landmark for about 3 km until they finally discovered the bags of rice and beans cleverly dumped in a shallow ditch close to the road. The driver initially raised some objections but when the marks on the discovered bags were found to be the same as those on the goods delivered he kept mute. It cost the association time and money to get to the root of the problem and settle it. The committee took the recovered goods to Ibadan for the owners and blacklisted the truck driver.

c. Personal conflicts

38Another case was that of a bus conductor who slapped a passenger in the course of a heated argument. The passenger was a woman who turned out to be a lawyer. She turned down the pleas of other commuters to pardon the bus conductor after he became contrite and pleaded for forgiveness. Instead she insisted on going to the police station and the regular court of law. At the police station, the officials of the NURTW, who had been alerted about the situation, pleaded with the woman to pardon the boy but she refused. The union officials then investigated and found the office of the woman’s husband whom they approached and begged to prevail upon his wife to pardon the bus conductor. The man agreed and went with them to the police station to the surprise of his wife. He pleaded with her and she finally gave in. The union officials thanked the man and took the couple home (they did not have a car of their own) in the union’s official vehicle. An official of the union remarked about that case ‘it was a difficult one but not as difficult as some others involving loss of lives. We were sure we would solve it, but how soon was what we could not tell...’

  • 16 Ayinde, op. cit.

39In another instance a commuter bus driver, a member of the NURTW, knocked down and killed a middle-aged man in Sango area of Ibadan. The case was taken to a nearby police station where the driver of the bus was remanded in custody, while the body was taken to the mortuary. In the meantime, the colleagues of the driver at the scene of the accident contacted the headquarters of their union to request for assistance for the detained driver. The officials of the union went straight to the police station where they were told to go and settle with the family of the deceased. Until that was done their member would remain in custody. The officials traced the house of the deceased and pleaded with the family to forgive the driver as he could not have deliberately killed the man. The officials promised to assist the family with the burial arrangements. They prayed for the repose of the soul of the deceased and prayed to God to choose a worthy father for his children. Eventually the family agreed to their pleas. Since the deceased was a Muslim, the burial was promptly organized for the third day after his death at his home town, Iwo, about 50 km from Ibadan. The NURTW provided buses to convey nearly everybody that attended the burial from Ibadan to Iwo. It also provided some money toward the burial arrangements and registered a conspicuous presence at the 8th day prayers. At the end of the prayers, the union gave an amount of money to the immediate family of the deceased. At every stage of the burial arrangements the police were kept informed of the role of the NURTW. In the end, a recognized member of the deceased family went with the officials of NURTW to the police station to sign documents attesting to the role of the union in the burial and that they (the deceased’s family) were not willing to pursue the case any further. It was after this that the detained driver was released to the officials of his union.16

3.4.3 Procedure for the Settlement of Disputes

40Unlike the religious institutions, cases are reported for arbitration or settlement ‘formally’ by one of the parties to the dispute, especially if both of them are association members. The formal report is verbal in some associations and written in some others. Where one party is not an association member efforts are made by the executive of the association to get an out-of-court settlement. This is particularly the case in situations where the association member is likely to be found guilty in the end. Once the case is reported, the chairman and members of his executive meet to decide on when to hear the case. As soon as a date is fixed, notices are sent to the parties to appear before the judicial panel. From the time the case is reported to a few days to the hearing, depending on the association, an objective team of investigators is sent out to obtain information on what actually happened. The report of the team is used in deciding judgement. On the appointed day, the parties state their case and call their witnesses, if there are any. The judicial panel, usually headed by the executive chairman, then cross checks facts and delivers ‘judgment’ in accordance with the constitution of the association and in line with reason. Judgement is delivered in such a manner that efforts at reconciling the parties are not jeopardized.

41However, if either of the parties is not satisfied with the judgement, he could appeal to a higher authority. If the judgement was given at the unit level, he could appeal to the branch for further hearing, and if it is at the branch level, he could appeal to the state headquarters, which is the ‘supreme court’ in the state. The level of appeal depends on the association, its size and membership.

3.5 Neighbourhood associations

42The Oyo State Edict No 7 of 1987 entitled Mobilization of Community Development Committee Edict 1987 encouraged the formation of community development associations. Since its promulgation, a lot of associations have been formed at the grassroots level to take advantage of the edict. There was an enthusiastic response to the call from the people who formed associations for the development of their areas and to provide security for their neighbourhoods. The list of the community development associations (CDAs) includes landlords’ associations, residents’ associations, vigilante groups, etc. The edict stipulates that these groups are to be organized at the ward level, the ward being the lowest or smallest unit of administration. However, most of the CDAs are organized on other bases. Usually, they are organized on the basis of felt and shared needs among a number of streets in the neighbourhood, with the landlords taking the initiative.

43A major reason for avoiding the formation of CDAs along the ward line as directed by the edict is because wards are synonymous with elections or politics in Ibadan, and Nigeria generally. Therefore, whenever a group of people plan any community-based project at the ward level, people are always wary about joining. Their suspicion would seem to be justified as the Community Development Inspector for Ibadan South-West Local Government Area, Mrs. Ronke Aremu, confirms that when people present themselves as ward heads or leaders they usually turn out to be politicians. For this reason her local government does not encourage the formation of ward CDAs.

44There are, however, some CDAs which have been organized along ward lines without any problem. In Ibadan North-East Local Government, ward 9, at Baasale, a water project is currently being undertaken by members of the community. Similarly, ward 5 of the Ibadan South-West Local Government is properly organized as a CDA.

3.6 The Landlords’ Associations

45There is no doubt that the emergence of these groups has facilitated the process of development and the resolution of certain conflicts in the neighbourhood; but their existence has also created new problems that require a new mechanism for their resolution.

46In the first place, the landlords’ associations have greatly contributed to the development, in both types of poor neighbourhoods, of self-help projects such as the provision of drainage, pipe-borne water, electricity, and the maintenance and construction of access roads. In Agbowo, a high density residential area opposite the University of Ibadan, the landlords’ association of the community has been striving to reconstruct a 2 km access road in the area for some time now. To achieve their aim, a levy of one hundred naira has been placed on each house and as at the meeting on October 3rd 1995 they had collected close to fifty thousand naira with the option of increasing the levy should the need arise.

47On the other hand, occasions for such contributions have become sources of conflict as some of the landlords have refused to pay the agreed levy for the project. Yet the association has often found it difficult to report erring landlords to the police, even though the edict governing their association has a provision for dealing with such people. The reluctance to report to the police is not unconnected with the general belief that going to the police station or the law court is not good for neighbours. Rather they tend to appeal to the erring landlords to develop greater community consciousness.

  • 17 Interview with Mr. M. Kamoru the Majeobaje (he who prevents conflicts from ensuing) of Oke Irorun, (...)

48At another level, the association has often served as a platform for solving potential or actual disputes between landlords. In Academy (Express) area of Ibadan, a landlord whose pit latrine was full evacuated the waste to the side of his neighbour’s house, in anticipation that the rainfall would wash the waste away. Unfortunately, however, the expected rain did not fall for several days and an offensive odour took over the neighbours’ house. All appeals to the man who had dumped the waste to take it away fell on deaf ears until he was reported at the landlords’ meeting, where he was ordered to clear the mess away immediately. He was, however, saved the embarrassment of removing the waste as rain fell and washed it away.17

49The landlords’ forum has also been turned to an informal rendezvous for discussing house rent increases. High and often arbitrary rent increases are made by landlords in the poor neighbourhoods without consideration for the ability of tenants to pay. Increases, which could occur twice or thrice within a year, always carry a penalty of ejection from the room after a stipulated time that rarely exceeds one month. In the alternative, the landlord will remove the roof of the room, forcing the tenant to vacate the room. The chairman of the Agbowo Community Landlords Association, Alhaji R.A. Adegbite, however, says ‘we always enjoin our members not to take the law into their hands. We implore them to follow the due process of law in ejecting their erring tenants from their houses’. This call does not seem to have been heeded by the ‘Lords’ of Agbowo. What makes the situation worse is that the tenants lack the means to go to a court; but even if they had the wherewithal, it is easier to settle with the landlord at whatever cost than go and waste their resources in the law court. Going to court does not ensure that justice will be done. Moreover, the landlord can bribe his way through the police to get a favourable judgement at the expense of the tenant. If a tenant is going to spend money prosecuting a case he will eventually lose, why not use the same money to offset the increased rent to the landlord, live in peace with him, and avoid the time wasted in the court of law. In face of the Herculean task of survival the poor tenant probably cannot afford to waste his meagre resources even if he may eventually win the case.

50Unlike the landlords, tenants do not have an official platform for discussing the problems associated with their living in their specific neighbourhoods. Discussing issues such as landlords’ arbitrary house rent increase and security of the area are reserved for the comers of their rooms for fear of eviction if the landlord hears that he being discussed by his tenants or other forums such as participating in vigilante activities or monthly environmental sanitation exercises. Even then, care must be taken to avoid the landlord’s spy amongst them going to report any adverse criticism of the landlord.

3.7 Vigilante groups

51A vigilante group is a group of people at the ward level or local government level set up to collect information on suspected criminals in its area, for use by the police in the detection and prevention of crime. It is supposed to be made up of landlords, tenants, and community leaders of the neighbourhood, who keep watch over their area and report suspicious people to the police. The composition of these groups has changed over the years with the landlords’ and community leaders hardly joining in group activities. Instead the tenants and some children of landlords are made to carry out neighbourhood tasks in rotation. It is through this kind of informal association that the tenants can exchange ideas about matters concerning their neighbourhoods.

  • 18 Interwiew with Alhaji R.A. Adegbite, Chairman of the Agbowo Community Landlords Association. He st (...)

52The vigilante groups are supposed to play a supportive role to the police, but the groups have become independent, largely because they perceive the police as unreliable in combating crime. They allege that police action makes a mockery of community efforts in this respect. In addition to demanding money from the residents of the neighbourhood to fuel their patrol vehicles,18 they collude in the escape of apprehended criminals. A resident of Agbowo and a vigilante group leader said:

We can no longer trust the police. Several times we caught thieves in the neighbourhood and handed them over to the police, before mid-day we saw these thieves walking around the streets again... We then decided afterward to deal with the thieves in our own way. Any thief caught was instantly ‘dealt with’ and the remains abandoned on the expressway (a distance of about one kilometre away) to look like a hit and run case. In the alternative we give the thief a necklace (beat him unconscious and then put a tyre around his neck and set it on fire after sprinkling petrol on it) since we started this, thieves have disappeared from here.

53This new method is fraught with problems, as innocent citizens can be taken for thieves and killed before they can be identified. The chairman of Agbowo Community Landlords’ Association said during an interview that he had to come out personally to identify some residents that were apprehended as robbers by members of the vigilante. So what would have happened to those not lucky enough to have been so identified? Mrs Ronke Aremu, Community Development Inspector, Ibadan South-West Local Government, who is a member of the Oyo State Vigilante Committee, the body that is responsible for coordinating the monitoring of vigilante activities, confirmed in an interview that a major complaint against the vigilante groups was their manhandling of innocent citizens.

  • 19 A cross section of people interviewed complained that the vigilante activities they were involved (...)

54Lastly, activities of vigilante groups have been slowed down in the last few years due to the non-cooperation of some of the people that are supposed to come out for the group’s activities at night. These nightly activities were affecting the work of individuals19 and so people started staying away, thus creating a great crisis for the group. In order to resolve the problem, the groups, in association with the landlords, resorted to hiring night watchmen to guard the streets. Each street employed one or two watchmen depending on the length of the street, while contributions were made monthly to cover the cost. This seems to be the popular trend in neighbourhoods now, all the more since the edict authorizes it. The popularity of this practice is further enhanced by the increasing sophistication of armed robbers, who now give advance notice of their impending operations in a particular neighbourhood. Since most of the members of the vigilante group do not carry guns, they are grossly ill-equipped to face robbers, who often carry automatic rifles. Recently, members of the vigilante group of Oke-Rorun, Academy area of Ibadan, were attacked by armed robbers for five consecutive days without any tangible assistance or protection from the police. This has forced many residents of the area to abandon the group. They also have decided to employ professional night watchmen to guard their neighbourhood.

55However, some inhabitants still carry out genuine vigilante activities and residents come out every evening to keep watch till daybreak. The number of those still doing this is decreasing by the day.


1 A cross section of people interviewed (mainly religious leaders and elders) linked frequent family problems to insufficient resources available for their upkeep. This often results in the woman engaging in extra-marital affairs to obtain additional income to supplement her monthly allowance. It is also responsible for the high incidence of gambling among the men who see the exercise as an avenue to instant wealth.

2 Reverend (Dr.) Oladoja of the First Baptist Church, Idi-Ikan, Ibadan picked gambling cases as one of the commonest usually brought to his attention. This was corroborated by Alhaji O. Imam of Foko area of Ibadan.

3 The acting imam of the University of Ibadan mosque, Alhaji D.A Adekilekun-Tijani, related this story. His father was the imam who resolved this conflict.

4 Oladoja, op. cit.

5 Interwiew with Alhaji Y.A. Zubair, State Missioner (Oyo State) and National Deputy Missioner Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria. He is the Chief Imam of Ansar-Ud-Deen Mosque in Ibadan.

6 ibid.

7 Interwiew with Reverend A. Adejuwon of the Holy Covenant Church, Foko. Ibadan.

8 Adekilekun-Tijani, op. cit.

9 The procedures for hearing cases are as varied as there are religious institutions in Ibadan. The more established churches and mosques with branches all over the town and country have established and tested machinery for resolving conflicts that are beyond the individual capacity of the imam or the pastor.

10 A third, though not so common way of receiving reports on quarrelling parties within the congregation is when the leader notices unfriendly attitudes among hitherlo friendly people. He may send a spy lo investigate whether a problem actually exists, so that he can invite them for a consultation.

11 Imam. op. cit.

12 This brings to mind the celebrated leadership tussle within the Celestial Church of Christ al the death of their leader and founder, Pastor Oshoffa in 1985

13 This was what happened to the Ahmaddiya Movement in Islam in the late 1970s when a section of it broke away to form the Anwar-ul-Islam movement. The same thing happened to the Church of God Mission led by Reverend Benson Idahosa when his deputy Reverend Ayo Oritsejafor broke away to form his own church.

14 Interview with Mr. Tajudeen Ayinde, Vice Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Ibadan North West Local Government Area.

15 Interview with Mr. Kunle Adekola, secretary, Agbowo branch of the National Union of Barbers and Personal Service Workers.

16 Ayinde, op. cit.

17 Interview with Mr. M. Kamoru the Majeobaje (he who prevents conflicts from ensuing) of Oke Irorun, Academy Express, Ibadan.

18 Interwiew with Alhaji R.A. Adegbite, Chairman of the Agbowo Community Landlords Association. He stated that the Police demanded twenty naira (N20) for fuelling their patrol vehicle when the community first started the vigilante programme in the mid 1980s, but that they have now increased the sum to 500 naira (N500) a month.

19 A cross section of people interviewed complained that the vigilante activities they were involved in affected their work during the day as they had to compensate for the sleep forgone at night during business hours.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1995

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